SUPPORT FOR EU SHRINKS, REACTION GROWS

Zaman, Turkey
Oct 31 2006

Remarks made by EU authorities on delicate issues such Cyprus and
Turkey's human rights record have negatively affected Turkish public
opinion regarding accession to the European Union.

Drawing attention to this negative impact, Chairman of the Turkish
Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) Rifat Hisarciklioglu
noted that polls indicated public support for EU membership has faded
significantly, dropping dramatically to below 50 percent.

However, he also asserted that this sharp decline in support for the
EU in Turkey should not bother the union.

Hisarciklioglu recalled that the EU's consistent double standards have
created this situation and said: "We occasionally hear comments from
EU officials referring to Turkey's unwillingness and unassertiveness
in introducing further reforms. However, it should be noted that the
EU has been suffering from a reluctance to fulfill its obligations
and commitments on lifting the isolation of Turkish Cyprus, as well
as their double standards in relation to freedom of expression,
terrorism and the groundless genocide allegations."

TOBB held a meeting entitled "The European Union Accession Process,
Chambers of Commerce and Industry: Case Studies-Projects" at the TOBB
Economy and Technology University.

In the opening speech, Hisarciklioglu assessed the progress report the
EU Commission will release next week. Voicing Turkey's expectation
that the report would be based on solid and technical evaluations,
Hisarciklioglu further stated: "The progress report will give a new
direction to the accession negotiations. I hope the evaluations and
the comments in the report will help us eliminate our shortcomings
and encourage our technical work."

The EU Commission will assess Turkey's performance with regard
to membership negotiations held this year. The Cyprus issue and
the opening of ports to Greek Cypriots have reportedly deadlocked
negotiations between the parties.

However, according to Turkey's State Minister and Chief Negotiator
Ali Babacan, Turkey's troubles with the EU stem from the individual
stances of certain EU member states, not from its relations with the
EU Commission.

Babacan said: "We have confidence in ourselves. There is no problem
in Ankara or Brussels. The problem is in the European capitals. Some
countries are just not ready for Turkey's membership in the EU;
they have their own unique internal problems."

He noted that the negotiations would have been completed in 3-4
years if it were a technical process only and added that political
developments would determine the pace of the process and without
public support, the process could not be concluded successfully.

'Historical compromise only possible with debate'

Stressing that certain developments within the EU have negatively
affected Turkish public opinion, Babacan cited as an example the
adoption of the draft bill by the French parliament that would make
denial of an Armenian genocide a criminal offense.

French businessmen also reacted to the bill that was passed on the
eve of elections in the country. Pierre Simon, Chair of the Paris
Chamber of Commerce, and president of Eurochambres, an umbrella
organization for European chambers of commerce, noted that a compromise
on historical issues should be sought through discussion and debate
rather than legal means.

According to Simon, who criticized the draft bill, situations like
this show how important businessmen are in the conduct of bilateral
relations between countries.

Simon said, "I believe that compromise on historical issues can only be
achieved through open and democratic debates, and not through enacting
laws," and also called on the business world to guide politicians
down the right path.

He further said: "Trade means peace. As businessmen from the two
countries, we should continue our efforts to enhance economic
relations."

Simon also added that the importance of dialogue, trust and cooperation
became clearer in periods marked by political discussions and
controversies.